# 10. The Pidyon Haben redemption money: Amount, five silver dollars

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1. The redemption money:[1]
2. The amount of money to give the Kohen:[2]

The father is commanded to give the Kohen the value of five Selaim [or Shekalim[3]] to redeem his son.[4]

How much is five Selaim?[5] The five Selaim is the value of 120 Maim which is equal to 30 Dirham of refined silver.[6] Some Poskim[7] rule that this is equal to 2 gold Rinesh or 2 gold Polish. Other Poskim[8] rule that it is the value of 5.25 Lot. Other Poskim[9] rule that it is the value of five gold polish [which is equal to around 12 gold Rinesh]. Admur rules that it is equivalent to 8 Lot of refined silver in the weight of the Keisar of Russia.[10] Practically, Lechatchila it is proper for one to follow the most stringent opinion, and thus fulfill his obligation according to all.[11] [Practically, its final value is equivalent to slightly more than 102 grams of refined silver [i.e. 102.4 g or 103 grams as a  round off number].[12] It is not possible to list an exact amount of currency value of the five Selaim, such as in dollars, as the worth of silver constantly fluctuates and hence its currency value would be equivalent to the price of 103 grams of silver on the day of the redemption. Thus, the father of the firstborn child who is obligated in Pidyon Haben is to give the market value equivalent of 103 grams of silver to the Kohen, as explained next. As of June 18, 2024, the value of 1 g of silver is \$.94 for a total of \$96.31 for 102.4 g. When using silver coins which one purchases from the Kohen, as explained next, they usually contain between 110 to 130 g of silver, and hence their value is to be measured accordingly. The father should not give less than the coins real value.[13]]

What to give-Giving the value of Five Selaim:[14] It is not necessary to give actual coins of Selaim/Shekalim currency, or coins of actual silver, to the Kohen, and rather it is permitted for one to give its equivalent value to the Kohen. The equivalent value of five Selaim may be given in any form that one chooses, including by giving the Kohen an object that is worth this amount [i.e. one’s Shabbos hat, or phone]. However, it is not valid to give an equivalent value of real estate, or a loan document to the Kohen.[15] [For this same reason, one may not give the Kohen a check, credit card payment, or even cash, whether bills or coins, unless the coins contain actual silver.[16]] If one redeemed using an invalid method of payment, then the child is not considered redeemed.[17] [Practically, the simplest way of accomplishing the giving of the value of five Selaim to the Kohen is to give him an item that contains 103 g of silver, such as four or five silver dollars[18], or any item purchased from a silver store that contains 103 g of silver. One can preorder from the silver store five coins made of silver, which contain a total of 103 g of silver. Alternatively, one can search for a Kohen who already owns the five silver coins, purchase it from him for its market value, and then return it to him as part of the Pidyon Haben. Technically, however, one may give the Kohen any item that its market value is equal to or more than the price of 103 g silver on that day, although the custom is to give an item that contains an actual 103 g of silver. One may not however give the Kohen a check, credit card payment, or even cash, whether bills or coins, unless the coins contain actual silver as stated above regarding the ability to use the silver dollar, which contains a very high percentage of actual silver.]

An object that is not worth five Selaim: If one gave the Kohen an object that is not worth five Selaim on the market, and the Kohen accepted it in place of the five Selaim, then if there exists a person who would pay five Selaim for the object, then the redemption is valid.[19] If, however, the Kohen accepted it without any intention to have it be in the place of the five Selaim, then the child is not redeemed.[20]

 Summary: The father of the firstborn child who is obligated in Pidyon Haben is required to give the market value equivalent of 103 grams of silver to the Kohen. The simplest way of accomplishing this is to give him an item that contains 103 g of silver, such as five silver dollars, or any item purchased from a silver store that contains 103 g of silver. One can preorder from the silver store five coins made of silver, which contain a total of 103 g of silver. Alternatively, you can search for a Kohen who already owns the five silver coins, purchase it from him for its market value, and then return it to him as part of the Pidyon Haben. Technically, however, one may give the Kohen any item that its market value is equal to or more than the price of 103 g silver on that day, although the custom is to give an item that contains an actual 103 g of silver. One may not however give the Kohen a check, credit card payment, or even cash, whether bills or coins, unless the coins contain actual silver as stated above regarding the ability to use the silver dollar, which contains a very high percentage of actual silver.

1. May the Kohen give the money back to the father?[21]

The Kohen is not required to keep the redemption money that he was given by the father, and it is hence permitted for him to return the money to the father if he so wishes. Nonetheless, a Kohen should not be accustomed to always return the money to everyone that redeems by him, as this will cause that everyone will redeem by him.[22]

Not to give the redemption money with intent of having it returned: Although the Kohen reserves the right to return the redemption money back to the father, as stated above, nonetheless, the father may not initially give the money to the Kohen under this condition that he be given the money back, and at times doing so invalidates the redemption, as will soon be explained. Rather, the father is to give the redemption money to the Kohen with complete intent of gifting it to him for his keeps and if the Kohen decides to return it on his own accord, then so be it. [Giving the five Selaim or the value of the five Selaim fully to the Kohen as a complete present without intent to receive it back helps with the life and health of the child.[23]]

If the money was given on condition to be returned: If the father gave the money to the Kohen with the intent in mind that the Kohen return the money, and that he is giving the Kohen the money on condition that he return the money to him, then if the Kohen was not aware of this condition and thought that he was receiving the money for him to keep for himself, then if the Kohen returns the money to the father, then the child is not redeemed.[24] However, if the father gave the redemption money to the Kohen as a gift under the explicitly stated condition that the Kohen return the gift money back to him after the redemption, and the Kohen accepted this condition and returned the money, then the child is redeemed.[25] Nonetheless, this should not initially be done.[26] However, this only applies if the father explicitly said to the Kohen that he is receiving the money as a gift “on condition to return” [i.e. Matana Al Means Lehachzir], however, if the father told the Kohen to take the five Selaim and then return it to him without mentioning its gifts status and its condition of return, then the redemption is completely invalid.[27]

1. May one give his son to the Kohen instead of giving him redemption money?[28]

The father must redeem the child by giving the Kohen the redemption money, and he cannot choose to fulfill his obligation by giving the child to the Kohen in its stead. Accordingly, if he tells the Kohen to take the child, he does not fulfill his obligation and must redeem him.

1. Do Siamese twins need to be redeemed with ten Selaim?[29]

Siamese twins [who are born a natural birth] need to be redeemed with ten Selaim. The father is obligated to give ten Selaim to the Kohen, five for each head. [Practically, in today’s times, Siamese twins are birthed through C-section and hence are exempt from redemption.]

1. Not enough coins – If one only has four coins to do the Pidyon what is he to do?[30]

If one only has four coins to perform the Pidyon he can give the Kohen the 4 coins, and then buy back one coin and then give him that coin, for a total of five coins.

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[1] Shevach Habris 3; Pidyon Haben Kehilchaso 7:1-61

[2] Michaber 305:1; Siddur Admur; Bechoros 49b; Bamidbar 18:16; Shevach Habris 3:1-2

[3] In scripture, the term Shekalim is used [Bamidbar ibid], which is translated as Selaim [Targum Unkelus]] hence being one and the same currency, as the term Shekel used in the Torah is called Selaim in the words of the sages. [Rambam Erechin 4:3]

[4] The reason: As the verse states that “his redemption with a value of five Shekalim” [Bamidbar ibid]

[5] See Shiurei Torah p. 287; Hearos of Rav Raskin on Siddur

[6] Michaber 305:1

[7] Rama ibid

[8] Taz 305:1; Maharam Merothenberg; Derisha 305:3 in name of Rashal

[9] Perisha 305:2, brought in Shach 305:1; Tzemach Tzedek Y.D. 223

[10] Siddur Admur; See Tzemach Tzedek Y.D. 223 who questions this ruling and states that he is not clear as to how he got to this conclusion as in truth it is much less than eight Lut, as states the Perisha and Taz ibid; However, see Shiurei Torah p. 287 who explains that the Lot weight of the Alter Rebbe in Russian currency is equal to that of the Taz which is 5.25 Lot in Polish currency and hence there is no contradiction between the rulings

[11] Shach 305:1; See Likkutei Sichos 39:221 that by Pidyon Haben we are stringent in the value of the Sela

[12] Shiurei Torah 3:43, p. 288 based on Admur in Siddur who writes that it is equivalent to 8 Lot of refined silver in the weight of the Keisar of Russia which is slightly more than 102 grams of silver; See Tzemach Tzedek Y.D. 223; Shevach Habris 3:2

Other opinions: Some write that the 5 Selaim is equivalent 100 g of refined silver. [Rav S.Y Zevin, brought in Shiureiy Torah ibid p. 287]

[13] See Likkutei Pinchas 29; Pidyon Haben Kehilchaso 7:35 footnote 88

[14] Michaber 305:3; Siddur Admur; Tur 305; Mishneh Bechoros 51a;  Shavuos 4b; Levush 305:3; Shevach Habris 3:1; Pidyon Haben Kehilchaso 7:3-17

[15] Siddur Admur; Michaber Y.D. 305:3; Shach 305:2

This refers to a loan document which the father has as proof that he is owed money, and whomever owns the document can collect the money from the borrower. (Shach 2) Similarly writing the kohen a document that he, the father, owes him five selaim is also invalid (Michaber 4) as this may lead to allowing to redeem with loan documents. (Shach 3) Seemingly according to this a check would be an invalid form of payment as all a check is, is a document which claims that the bank owes him a certain amount of money.

[16] Chasam Sofer Y.D. 134; Teshuvah Meahava 2:404; Kitzur SHU”A 164:4; Pidyon Haben Kehilchaso pp. 184-186; Shevach Habris 3:1

The reason: The reason for this is because the above methods of payment do not contain actual inherent value and are simply similar to a promissory note of payment which people decided to accept for commerce purposes but remains invalid for Pidyon Haben. [Poskim ibid]

[17] Michaber 3

[18] Pidyon Haben Kehilchaso 7:2 p. 456; Shevah Habris p. 109

How many silver dollars to give four or five? Silver dollars that were minted prior to 1935 are made up of 90% silver, and thus in each coin there is 24 g of silver. Hence if one gives to the Kohen silver dollars that were minted prior to 1935, then he must give five silver dollars, which contains 120.28 grams of silver which is more than the necessary amount, and is valid for use. Silver dollars that were minted after the year 1986 contain more than 90% silver and thus there is 30 g of silver in each coin. Hence if one gives silver dollars there were minted past 1986 then it is only necessary to give four coins which contains 124.28 g of silver which is more than the necessary amount, and is valid for use. Silver dollars that were minted between the years 1971-1978 only contain 40% silver content and hence many more of such coins must be given to contain the required 103 g of silver. [Pidyon Haben Kehilchaso 7:2 p. 456; Shevah Habris p. 109] From Microsoft Copilot AI: The silver content in a U.S. silver dollar varies based on the type and minting period. Let’s focus on the 90% silver dollars minted from 1878 to 1935. These include the Morgan Silver Dollar and the Peace Silver Dollar. Here are the details: Morgan Silver Dollar: Contains 0.77344 troy ounces of silver, which is approximately 90% of its total weight. The remaining portion is copper. Peace Silver Dollar: Also contains 0.77344 troy ounces of silver, with the same 90% silver content. The rest is copper. Keep in mind that these calculations are based on the intrinsic value of the silver and do not account for any collector or base metal value. If you’re curious about the worth of your silver dollars, you can use the U.S. Silver Dollar Melt Value Calculator to determine their silver value.

[19] Michaber 305:5; Shach 305; Taz 305

Other opinions: Some Poskim rule that even if the object is not worth five Selaim to anyone, nevertheless, if the Kohen accepts it, then the child is redeemed. [Shach and Taz, brought in Beir Heiytiv 305:4]

[20] Rama 305:6

[21] See Michaber 305:8; Bechoros 51b; Levush 305:8; Shach 305:6 and 8; Shevach Habris 4:6-7; Pidyon Haben Kehilchaso 7:18-48

[22] Michaber 305:8

[23] Kaf Hachaim 116:139; See Sefer Chassidim 334; Shemiras Hanefesh 180

[24] Michaber 305:8 as explained in Rama 306:8 and Taz 305:6; Rambam; Rabbeinu Gershom

The reason: As the money must be given to the kohen as a complete present, and only afterwards, if the Kohen wills to return it, may he do so. Hence, in the above case, the redemption is invalid as to begin with the Kohen was never given the money as a complete present.

Other opinions: Some Poskim rule that the redemption is invalid even if the Kohen did not return the money to the father being that it was never given to him with intent for him to keep it. [Shach 305:7; Rashi; Rashba; Ramban]

[25] Michaber Y.D. 305:8; O.C. 658:4

[26] Michaber 305:8; See Taz 305:6 and Rama 306:8 that the rule is that whenever the father and kohen both know that the money is being given on condition to return, then it valis, and it is only invalid when the kohen thinks he can keep it, while the father gave it with intention to have it returned.

[27] Rama 305:8.

The reason: As in such a case the money is not considered to have ever been owned by the Kohen, and thus the child is not redeemed. However, when one says the term “condition” it implies that its being given now to the kohen as a gift and it’s just that the kohen needs to latter return it, and a gift that is given on condition of return is still considered a gift. [Rama ibid]

[28] Rama 305:10; Terumas Hadeshen 135; Chut Hashani 92; Pischeiy Teshuvah 305:15; See Pidyon Haben Kehilchaso 7:38; 8:12 footnote 38

[29] Menachos 37b; Tur 305, brought in Beis Hillel; Avnei Nezer Y.D. 399; Pidyon Haben Kehilchaso 3:38; Omitted from Rambam and Michaber

[30] Rav Asher Lemel Cohen; See Michaber 305:7; Bechoros 51b; Pidyon Haben Kehilchaso 7:39